Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Rising Time: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Steamed pork buns are an absolute must-have when you go to a dim sum restaurant. The sweet and rich flavor of the barbecued pork, housed in a light and fluffy bun, is something to behold. 

If you've never had the pleasure of having dim sum, we encourage you to try it. Think of it as the Chinese version of Spanish tapas. You can go and order a variety of smaller plates that you can share with your table. A lovely way to broaden ones horizons and try new dishes, without feeling like you have to commit a whole meal to one item, that you are not sure if you will enjoy. This way, you can try a bunch of different items and perhaps find a new dish that you never would have thought you'd really like. Win-win! 

If you happen to really enjoy the pork buns, also known as Char Siu Bao, then the below recipe is a great way to create these delicious buns at home. The recipe happens to be courtesy of Sylvia Schulman's cookbook, Madame Wong's Long-Life Chinese Cookbook.

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Ingredients

  • For the Buns:
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package dried yeast (or 1 cake fresh yeast)
  • 1 cup water (lukewarm)
  • 4 1/2 cups flour (divided)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup water (boiling)
  • For the Pork Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 scallion (chopped fine)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped fine)
  • 1/2 pound barbecued pork (cut into small cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water (or chicken stock)
  • For Assembly:
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this steamed pork bun dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Buns

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for buns

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water.

    Dissolve yeast in water

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. Add 1 cup of flour and mix thoroughly.

    add flour to the yeast mixture in the bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Cover with cloth and let rise 1 hour, until bubbles appear.

    cover the yeast mixture in the bowl with a towel

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Dissolve sugar and vegetable oil in 1/2 cup boiling water. Stir well.

    sugar and oil in a saucepan

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  6. Cool until lukewarm, then pour into yeast mixture.

    add sugar mixture to the yeast mixture in the bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups flour and stir.

    dough in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  8. Knead dough on lightly floured board until smooth.

    dough ball on a floured surface

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  9. Put into extra large, greased bowl in a warm place.

    dough ball in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  10. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.

    cover dough with a towel

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Make the Pork Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pork filling

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok. Stir fry scallion and garlic 30 seconds.

    Stir fry scallion and garlic in a wok

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. Add pork and stir-fry for 1 minute.

    pork cooking in a wok

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  4. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar.

    Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar to the pork in the wok

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water.

    Cornstarch and water

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  6. Pour the dissolved cornstarch into the wok. Stir-fry quickly until pork is glazed.

    add cornstarch mixture to the pork in the wok

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Remove to bowl and allow to cool.

    cooked pork in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Assemble

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pork bun

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. On a floured board, knead dough 1 minute and roll into one long, sausage-like roll 2 inches in diameter.

    dough on a floured surface

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohnd

  3. Slice the roll crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

    dough cut into pieces

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand and roll with rolling pin into 3-inch rounds.

    roll out dough pieces on a floured surface

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Brush with sesame oil.

    Brush the dough with sesame oil

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  6. Place 2 tablespoons of filling in center of each round.

    pork filling on top of dough

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Gather dough up around the filling by pleating along the edges.

    gather the dough around the filling

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  8. Bring the pleats up and twist securely and firmly.

    seal the dough around the filling

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  9. Place each bun on 2-inch square of either parchment paper or aluminum foil on a steamer tray.

    buns in a steamer basket

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  10. Cover with a towel. Let rise 1 hour, until dough springs back when touched with finger.

    buns in a steamer basked covered with a towel

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  11. Remove towel and steam over briskly boiling water for 10 minutes.

    Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) in a steamer basket

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Tip

  • This dish can be prepared in advance. Make the buns, fill them, and steam them, as you would normally. Then freeze them in a zip-top bag. When ready to eat, thaw out the plastic bag and re-steam for 10 minutes.